Sanders’ Appeal Tested in Moderate Virginia on Super Tuesday

Representative Elaine Luria is the kind of up-and-comer the Democratic Party would like to keep in Congress, The Associated Press writes.

But the former Navy commander with a moderate bearing, who flipped a coastal Virginia House seat in 2018, said she’s afraid that will be far more difficult if her party nominates Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for president.

“When I talk to people across our district, they are very pragmatic, middle of the road,” said Luria, who has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. “They don’t want free everything for everyone, or policy positions that are unrealistic.”

Like Luria’s district, which includes Virginia Beach, where Sanders is holding a rally Saturday night, her state presents a vital test for Sanders’ ability to consolidate his position as the clear Democratic 2020 front-runner by winning in a swing state with moderate leanings.

She is among the dozen or so freshman members of Congress with national security backgrounds who persuaded voters to throw out an incumbent Republican, and Democrats are counting on them to help maintain control of the House in November.

Virginia is not currently a priority for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, but there is concern among Democrats that if Sanders is his opponent, it will threaten down-ballot races. Still, Virginia is among the few states on Super Tuesday that are considered possibly competitive in the fall.

A good showing would bode well for Sanders’ ability to expand his appeal beyond his progressive base to win both the primary and the general election. But weak Virginia results may reinforce fears from many in his own party’s establishment that Sanders will struggle to win over legions of centrists he’ll likely need against Trump, AP added.

“The person who wins Virginia is a person who shows they can really put together a coalition that can beat Trump,” said Terry McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor. McAuliffe said the state’s diverse voter blocs, its mix of rural, urban and suburban areas and its many military and veteran voters make it a “perfect” test for Sanders’ appeal.

Once a more evenly split swing state, Democrats have won every statewide election in Virginia for the last decade while flipping partisan majorities in the state legislature and congressional delegation. Voter antipathy toward Trump, particularly in the state’s fast-growing suburbs outside Washington, D.C., have helped fuel that shift.

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